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posted by CoolHand on Monday April 17 2017, @04:17PM   Printer-friendly
from the future-vision dept.

It looks like NASA's stepping-stone to Mars will be a miniature space station in lunar orbit rather than a chunk of captured asteroid.

The agency plans to build an astronaut-tended "deep space gateway" in orbit around the moon during the first few missions of the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule, which are scheduled to fly together for the first time in late 2018, NASA officials said.

"I envision different partners, both international and commercial, contributing to the gateway and using it in a variety of ways with a system that can move to different orbits to enable a variety of missions," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C, said in a statement. [Red Planet or Bust: 5 Crewed Mars Mission Ideas]

"The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system," Gerstenmaier added.

One of those "other destinations" is Mars. NASA is working to get astronauts to the vicinity of the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s, as directed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. For the last few years, the agency's envisioned "Journey to Mars" campaign has included the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), an effort to pluck a boulder from a near-Earth asteroid and drag the rock to lunar orbit, where it could be visited by astronauts aboard Orion.

But ARM's future looks bleak; President Donald Trump provided no money for the mission in his proposed 2018 federal budget, which the White House released earlier this month.

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday April 17 2017, @09:40PM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Monday April 17 2017, @09:40PM (#495530) Journal

    If it wasn't for NASA $$$, SpaceX would not exist. It's not just due to the fact that SpaceX built upon existing NASA technologies. NASA is SpaceX's biggest customer, and SpaceX leases existing NASA facilities.

    SpaceX is NASA's way of getting around the military-Congressional-pork-industrial complex. The NASA move towards supporting greater privatization of space activity and allowing companies to transport astronauts to the ISS ultimately undermines pork programs where the rocket parts are built in many states. SpaceX is too competitive to be ignored.

    It looks like Falcon Heavy [] will cost maybe 20% of what the SLS [] will cost per launch, with maybe half the payload. The Interplanetary Transport System [] would grind SLS into dust by comparison (as currently planned, and assuming it does get built).

    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18 2017, @06:38AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18 2017, @06:38AM (#495715)

    Absolutely. My issue is not with NASA. NASA is an incredible agency that has and will continue to play a major (even if supporting) role in space. As mentioned they have no option whether or not to develop the SLS, and due to the petty nature of pork barrel politics they're also required to 'push' the SLS as well unless they want to see a sharp cut to their funding. Within the next let's say 5 years, I think it's very safe to say that the SLS program will be cancelled. But before it's all said and done - tens of billions of dollars will have been wasted on it. We've already spent about $10 billion on it. For contrast the entire expected cost to develop and build SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport System, is about $10 billion.

    It's just so frustrating to see so much money being completely wasted and false promises being obligatorily made all because of political pettiness.